Nothing about a room is as important as how the room smells…..

….I mean, if you’re going to write in it or do anything creative. The smell of a room influences your mood so much. It may not even be a room. If you’re a fresh air fiend and a singer songwriter, maybe you need to stride along a hilltop to pull your ideas together in the bracing cold air, or maybe, loiter in the earthy melancholy of an autumn wood. If you write flash fiction, do you do your best work locked up with your i.pad in a private den that just smells comfortably stuffy and safe? Or do you like to write in a shed that smells of cedar planks, or your bedroom that has your perfume in the curtains?

Some people find the smell of a library gets them in the creative mood – conditioned by years of doing research for their historical novel, perhaps. In any case, there’s something about the sense of smell that goes straight to the centre of your brain. It influences your mood, it tells you you’re safe. Or not. As the case may be. Tells you you’re in your home. Or the pub. Or a cafe…….

Of course, you may do your best work in a place where you’re not comfortable, or safe. You may be on fire creatively in a place which is nearly intolerable in other ways. I once wrote the first draft of a novel standing up at a sideboard in a room where my mother was very ill – Radio 4 playing constantly, as she found it comforting. Writing when she was asleep, stopping, of course, when she woke up, or when innumerable things had to be done. That writing – it wasn’t about her directly – but it kept me sane, I was writing for my life. A lot of people will have had a similar experience.

Unlikely, mind you, that one could revise or edit one’s work under those circumstances – you need the calm room that smells of cedar or the coffee-scented cafe for that.



……. the smell of coffee,

that strong, particular black brew, pungently French,

in the broad breakfast cup carelessly ample,

as if there could never be too much coffee, an adult pleasure,

never too much pleasure.

The bold, slightly ugly furniture. Jolie-laide.

A handful of flowers.

The strong Provencal sun, slabbed on the table like butter,

southerly, yellow, striping the wood with its heat.

Diagonal on a plate, a crisp baguette,

new from the bakery, its soft, fresh crumb

a revelation of how much one day is treasured.

Outside the shutters rattle in wind that rises, breath of the scorched land,

arid acres of vines.

That smell of coffee

Floods me with a memory brazenly sharp:

The sense of my young blood, how when I smelt that coffee

I was intoxicated with newness of life

rising like bread, ignorant too

how soon it could stale

and how an empty cup

cooling on the breakfast table

reminds me how long it is since I was last in France

2 thoughts on “Nothing about a room is as important as how the room smells…..

  1. going back to my old hall of residence with Sam made me feel again like I had 30 yeats ago, excited and on the brink of something, I wanted to live it all again.


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